This evening, I made the “pappa al pomodoro”, a simple, wonderful Italian soup that my mother used to make.  It’s made with stale bread, tomatoes, basil and vegetable broth. It was great! 

For some reason, in the U.S., I have never seen this delicious meal in any Italian restaurant. Actually, unless I go to Florence, I cannot even find it in Italy because it’s a Tuscan soup.

The soup is very easy to make, and I substitute Pomì tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes that are traditionally used. Kids love this hearty soup, and adults like it even more! It takes 30 minutes to make, and the amounts suggested in this recipe easily feed 6. If you double up the ingredients, in 30 minutes, you feed 12 or more.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf of old bread (2-3 days old) – use a Ciabatta or similar loaf bread, cut into thin slices
  • 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch of fresh Italian basil, leaves chopped (save a few un-chopped leaves for garnish when you serve the soup)
  • 2 boxes of Pomì chopped tomatoes
  • 2 liters of vegetable broth, preferably homemade broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How to make this recipe

  1. Heat the vegetable broth to a boil, then cover and allow to simmer until step 4.
  2. Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a large saucepan that has a lid.  When it is hot, add the garlic cloves and allow them to become golden in color.  
  3. Reduce the heat and remove the garlic from the skillet as soon as it becomes golden (do not wait until the garlic gets brown).
  4. Add the Pomì chopped tomatoes and most of the bunch of chopped basil leaves (save some leaves to garnish the finished soup) and cook on medium heat for 10 – 15 minutes.
  5. Add the vegetable broth that you have previously brought to a boil.
  6. Add the sliced bread to the pot and mix well.  Cook on low-to-medium heat for another 15 minutes, adding black pepper and salt to taste.
  7. Turn off the heat and use a potato masher to make sure that the bread is broken up into the soup mixture. The bread should give the soup a thick texture, but there should not be any lumps in the soup.  Cover the soup until you serve it.
  8. DO NOT add any cheese. If you like you can add ½ tablespoon of olive oil to each bowl, and gently swirl the olive oil into the soup.
  9. Garnish with a leaf or two of fresh basil.
  10. Buon appetito!

Suggested Wine Pairing

A simple Rosso di Montalcino or a Chianti pairs very well with this hearty soup.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

I like to use homemade broths for all of my soups and risotto recipes. My wife, Betti, makes the broth in our household, and she always keeps fresh or frozen broth in the kitchen. Here’s her recipe for a simple vegetable broth.

Ingredients

  • 2 potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 leafs of kale (optional)
  • 2 cherry tomatoes
  • ½ bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • Salt
  • A teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 2 liters of water

How to make this recipe

  1. Coarsely chop all of the vegetables except the cherry tomatoes and the parsley.
  2. Fill a pot with 2 to 3 liters of water. Make sure you have a heavy lid for the pot.
  3. Add the chopped vegetables, salt and peppercorns, and the ½ bunch of Italian parsley to the pot.
  4. Bring to a boil.  Allow to boil vigorously for 5 to 10 minutes, then partially cover the pot with its lid and bring to a simmer.
  5. Allow the ingredients to simmer for about 2 – 3 hours, making sure that it stays close to a boil, but doesn’t actually boil anymore
  6. After cooking for 2 – 3 hours, add the cherry tomatoes and bring to a boil once again for a few minutes.

Turn off the heat and allow to cool.  Use a colander or a strainer to separate the vegetables and peppercorns from the broth.